Warning: This post contains possible triggers regarding still birth and hospital situations. xx
When we fell pregnant with our second son, everyone in our families asked us why on earth were we having another child. It seems strange to you i’m sure. But my pregnancy, labour and first year of our first born’s life would put many people off.
We gave ourselves a 3 year gap. It was needed. We were only 20 when we had Bailey.
When I fell pregnant with Bailey, Daniel and I had been together for 2 and half years and been friends for 8 years. We hadn’t discussed starting a family but we knew we would eventually. I’m the eldest of 6 and Daniel is an only child. Our worlds were very different growing up. We were confident that we could be good parents even though we were young and unmarried. We thought ‘we’ll just work up until the baby is born, save up, get organised and give this one hell of a shot.’ How difficult can it be, people do it all the time…..
I found out I was pregnant 2 days after a missed period. Two ridiculously dark lines. Sitting on the toilet, staring at this stick in my lunch break. I’m pretty sure that’s when my love affair with the word Fuck originated. I wasn’t a big swearer. Now it’s one of my favourite words.
At 5 weeks, before i’d even been to the doctor to confirm or discuss anything, I remember standing in the kitchen cooking dinner. I felt faint. I had to sit down. Light headed. Like all the energy disappeared from my body. I went to bed thinking well that was weird, must be from a long day at work.
Except I woke up and it was still there. It never left. That feeling wouldn’t leave until I was 27 weeks pregnant. A few days later I started vomiting. Ok, morning sickness. Right. I had one book. There was no internet. There was no social media in 2003. There was no community. The book says vomiting is normal. Feeling tired is normal. Having no energy was normal. My vomiting got worse. I couldn’t lift my body from my bed. I started losing weight. I was cancelling days of work at a time.
This didn’t seem normal to me. I saw a GP who told me to keep up my sugars by eating jelly beans. She didn’t see any problem with what was happening to me. So then neither did I. I thought it must be normal as she showed zero urgency or concern. Being the first in our group of friends to be pregnant and family that was far away, I didn’t really have anyone to tell me that I needed help immediately and no one really knew the severity of my situation. By 12 weeks I had lost 20 Kilograms. I was losing 4kgs a week from weeks 9-12. I lost half my hair. I was vomiting blood. My body was rejecting food and then it started to reject water. My bowels stopped working. I passed out in the shower and hit my head.
The final time that I saw my doctor, she had to come out to the car. I couldn’t go inside. She told me to go to hospital.
When I got to hospital, they couldn’t even find a vein I was so dehydrated. My kidneys were moments from failing. I looked dead. I felt dead. They pumped me with fluids and nutrients and nausea medication. After a few days when I was more stable they did an ultrasound. They said my hormone level was so high that I must be having twins. I wasn’t. I had Hyperemisis Gravidarum. But it’s almost like no one knew what it was.
During my stay, a nurse brought me in a suppository nausea medication in the middle of the night. But lucky I can read because it was voltaren. Super humongous dosage of voltaren. Not to be given to pregnant women. I brought it to her attention and she apologised. I remember thinking at that point that I had placed trust in professionals that were letting me down. Little did I know just how important it would be to do my own research and trust myself more. But at 20, I felt like they knew better.
I had to quit my job. They had given me all the faith and time but I couldn’t return and they needed to fill my position. My mum whisked me away down the coast and cared for me. pumped me full of Spirulina and other gross things and I started to eat and drink again after seeing a chiropractor and bowen therapist. I had rehab to get my bowels to work again, my hair grew back. I stopped looking dead.
One month before Bailey was due, my routine check indicated that I was carrying small. You know that stupid measuring tape they put on your belly? Yeah that one. I was measuring under my weeks. By a lot. “We need to have you assessed” They sent me for one scan. Which ‘showed’ small limbs and a very large head. “I’m sorry but you cannot birth here at our birthing suite, you are now high risk.” Every 3 days for the next month, I sat at my new hospital (The voltaren one) being monitored for 3 hours.
The doctors then decided that I needed to be induced, on my due date because they were concerned that his little body and big head would need to come out early. They told me they didn’t know if he would survive being born with a head so large and didn’t want it to grow anymore. So I agreed. Who doesn’t want the best for their baby when they are scared and worried.
On my due date, I was induced 5 times in 12 hours. I had a total of 11 internal examinations over 18 hours. One during visiting hours at dinner time in a ward of 8 women and their families. My body was not ready to deliver. The gels did nothing. The next morning they decided to put me on a drip to start contractions. After 10 hours I hadn’t dilated at all. They decided to break my waters. I was screaming. It was horrific. The doctor told me to be quiet. My husband nearly punched him. The doctor was asked to leave by the nurses. I was also told disturbingly by staff “Not to worry about the sounds next door as a lady was trying to deliver a stillborn baby.” They were hideously unprofessional and unsupportive to the both of us. I couldn’t hear her by the way. I’ve always thought of that woman and how our children would have been the same age.
It was just after that, that they told me that my baby was distressed. “We need to do a cesarean.”
Because of the internals, they couldn’t find my urethra for my catheter so they needed to give me pethidine because it was so excruciating. It wasn’t until I had my second cesarean and I brought it up with my midwife that she said “No dear, we put the catheter in while you’re numb from your spinal.” And then I felt sick knowing, yet again there was another unneccesary procedure done to me.
My son was born a very strong and healthy 3.1kgs with normal limbs and head circumference. The original scan was wrong. The entire change of hospital and care, tests and inductions, internals and therefore emergency cesarean was for no reason. All based on a sonographer’s measurement error and a stupid measuring tape test that cannot possibly be reliable when everybody has a different body type and fat layers.
After my son was born, I had very little time to reflect on what had just happened. My son was vomiting green bile. They told me it was just amniotic fluid from being inside. Except he hadn’t done his first poo and his belly was distended. Like a snake was inside it. 18 hours after he was born, we were in an ambulance on our way to Sydney Children’s hospital where it was confirmed that he had Hirschsprung’s Disease, a hereditary bowel condition where the bowel is permanently contracted so nothing can get out. It was 9 days before Christmas. The majority of the surgeon’s were on holiday’s and because he was stable and we were doing daily wash outs, his surgery wouldn’t be until the 29th of December.
In the mean time, I was at Royal Women’s Hospital next door. I was expressing breast milk every 3 hours to keep my milk and was being wheelchaired over between the hospitals to see him. I knew how damaged his bowel was going to be and how it needed to heal and he needed to be doing soft breast milk poos and not hard formula ones. So I pumped and pumped. I went home on Christmas night and came back the next morning. The only time I was away from him in 3.5 weeks. I did days straight with no sleep. When I did sleep, it was in a common room on a fold out bed or in a chair next to his crib. I have never been more exhausted in my life. Mostly emotionally. It’s fucking gut wrenching knowing you literally cannot do anything to help your child and the thoughts you have when your child is knocked out and their tiny body is being operated on, is breathtaking.
The day of his surgery is firmly burnt into my brain. I hope to never ever feel that way again. When he was brought into ICU, he couldn’t even cry. He was making faces of pure distraught but no sound was coming out. He kept pulling his drips out of his arms and feet so they had to put it in his skull. I was present for all examinations, biopsies and tests but they explicitly told me how serious this one was and if I flinched or made even the slightest disruption I couldn’t be in the room. So I left and returned to Bailey with a drip in his head. Fun fact – Bailey still has a dark patch of hair at the drip insertion site, 14 years on.
We came home from hospital a week before I turned 21. We would need to return to Sydney Children’s Hospital every Friday for 1 year. I would have to dilate the scaring on Bailey everyday for a year. We would have two hospital stays with enterocolitis before he was 6 months. They told me that 3 out of 4 of my children would have this disease.
So when we told our families that we were pregnant with our second son, their joy immediately went to “Oh Geez Lisa, are you ready for it.”
Thankfully neither our second or third son had Hirschsrpungs Disease and I avoided hospitalisation with my Hyperemisis Gravidarum both times aswell. I also only lost 11kgs and then 5kgs with those pregnancies. HG is brutal. It takes control of your body.
But the biggest thing I learnt was to make my own decisions. Research and feel confident.
I knew I was going to have an elective Cesarean second time around. I booked that baby in as soon as I could. And it was the best possible decision for me. I removed all the stress. This time, when the baby was measuring smaller than he should be, we knew it was most likely his positioning like his brother. Up against my spine. And when baby number 3 recorded the same measurements we knew. I asked so many more questions. I had access to the internet and other people’s experiences so that my first pregnancy trauma would never reoccur. Lachlan was going to be born into a stress free environment and I was determined to have a pregnancy that was as calm as possible. And it was fantastic.
My third cesarean I contemplated a VBA2C. I would have loved to deliver naturally. What an amazing experience it would have been plus the benefits of the labour process for mum and bub. But after months of thinking about it, I decided on a third section. During the procedure and after Oliver was out, the surgeon said to me, thank goodness that you are here because had you laboured, we would have had a very dangerous outcome. I had developed adhesions which were blocking a significant surface area needed for delivery. We were both very lucky.
Would I have had 3 cesareans by choice? No I wouldn’t. It’s major surgery. The recovery can be brutal. You need a good support network. Which I was fortunate to have. But this is my story and i’m so comfortable with it. The night Lachlan was born is one of my favourite nights of all time. Everyone knew. Everyone was eagerly awaiting his arrival. I had a room full of family and friends. I had no stress, no troubles, no guilt. It was my decision. A completely different experience from my first.
I cannot stress the importance of knowing your options when it comes to your body and it seems so much easier now than when I had Bailey. I’m also a different person to that scared 20 year old. Daniel is a different man too. He would never have stood for what we went through now, looking back it just seems ridiculous. A test, a comedy of errors that wasn’t funny.
Either way, it made us much stronger people and made pregnancies 2 & 3 so enjoyable. If you can take anything from my birth stories, please make informed decisions, speak up for yourself and just know that you are way stronger than you think. Your birth choices don’t define you at all. There was nothing weak or easy about my first Cesarean. If anything, I endured hell and came out the other side so much more aware. I don’t have any regrets. Except 2. One, I should have made a complaint about my care so it didn’t happen to anyone else and Two, I should have made a complaint about the disgraceful comments made regarding the beautiful strong woman in her worst ever moment, that I should never have known about.
I have 3 incredible sons. All with their brilliant capabilities and quirks. They are funny and kind and loving and healthy. And the fact that they were born via cesarean has had nothing to do with those traits. The way they got here has zero impact on who they are as individuals, that’s up to us. Which is way scarier than childbirth.